Early clock making in

Hingham, Massachusetts

 Part 1: Hingham Clockmakers and allied



 Researched, compiled and edited by Stephen H. Rogers, 2007

Clock Maker and Allied Craftsmen References

      "American Clocks and Clockmakers", Carl Dreppard 1947

      "The Book of American Clocks", Brooks Palmer 1950

      "A Treasury of American Clocks", Brooks Palmer 1967

      "Two Hundred Years of American Clocks and Watches", Chris H. Bailey 1975

      "The American Clock", William Diston and Robert Bishop 1976

      "American Clockmakers and Watchmakers", Sonya & Thomas Spittler, and Chris Bailey 2000

      "American Banjo Clocks", Steven Petrucelli and Kenneth A. Sposato 1995

      "Willard Patent Time Pieces", Paul Foley 2002

      "Clock Making in New England", Phillip Zea and C. Cheney 1992

      "Not All Is Changed. A life History of Hingham", Lorena and Francis Hart 1993

      Personal research notes (unknown author) regarding Calvin Bailey’s Ledger, obtained from National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors

      Roxbury Eight-Day Movements and the English Connection 1785-1825. An article in the Antiques magazine dated 4/1/2000 by Robert C. Cheney

      Papers of the Grew, Andrews, Norton, and Wigglesworth families." Item #344. Harvard University, Houghton Library.

Online (web) References

      George Lincolns’ 1893 History of Hingham (portions on-line)

      1790 Hingham Census (on-line)

      Baileyfamily.com (web genealogy)

      Payne/Joyce Genealogy (web genealogy)

      New England Historic Genealogies (NEHG web genealogy)

      Hingham Historical Society Newsletter article "Charles Howard & Co." by Gene Chamberlain (on-line)

      We’re Coming To America (web genealogy) Coplian.com

      Decorative Arts Trust Website, research grant paper on "Abiel White a Weymouth Carpenter" by Derin Bray (on-line)

      The "Silversmiths" website.


The goal of my research is to identify and document early Hingham clockmakers and allied craftsmen extracted from the lists of thousands of American clock related tradesmen contained in references 1-9. It is important to understand that my research is a Hingham-specific compilation, organization, and summary of many previously documented Hingham clock makers and allied craftsmen. I do not claim to be an "author" of this data as that would be a disservice to those who did much of the original research.

Through additional research using alternate resources now available, my aspirations are to expound on the information contained in the references and identify previously undocumented Hingham clock related craftsmen. It is my sincere desire to present the information as completely and accurately as possible.

While "accuracy" is my objective, I could not help but develop conclusions or assumptions based on much of the information provided. In my effort to keep the body of the text factual and non-cluttered, I have included speculations, supporting notes, and additional information which may be of interest to the reader in the "Notes" section at the end.


While much information on the early clock related craftsmen is common knowledge and repeated throughout many of the references, one reference stands out as an excellent source of new and useful information. In particular, reference 8, the book "Willard Patent Time Pieces" by Paul Foley of Norwell, MA. While most authors list only names and dates, Mr. Foley provides more specific details on the clock related craftsmen as well as interesting facts about each. This book was a very important source of my data on many of the early Hingham clockmakers and allied craftsman.

I want to thank antique clock specialist Gary Sullivan who offered advice and answered many of my questions regarding the early Hingham clockmakers. Currently Gary is working on the book "Harbor and Home, The Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts 1710-1850" co-written by Brock Jobe and Jack O'Brien which is due to be released in March of 2009.

Terminology… Who were the Clockmakers and who were Allied Craftsmen:

There were many craftsmen involved in the making of a clock (the clockmaker, cabinetmakers, guilders, brass and iron forgers, dial engravers, glass and mirror suppliers, ornamental painters etc.) It is important to first differentiate between those who were clockmakers and those allied craftsmen who assisted the clockmaker by providing specific services or materials required in the process of making a clock.

For Horologists (those of us who study timekeepers), the term "clockmaker" typically refers to the person who made the clock works (movements). Seldom did early clockmakers go on to build the clock case or perform other trade specific tasks necessary in order to complete the clock. More often than not, the clockmaker relied on the services of other local craftsmen.

The craftsmen who provided the materials or services necessary toward a finished product as well as those craftsmen responsible to help sustain or repair clocks i.e., jewelers, silversmiths and goldsmiths, are considered clock related allied craftsmen.

Research System used to Locate and Identify the Clockmakers and Allied Craftsmen of Hingham:

I began my research by examining the vast lists of clockmakers and allied craftsmen in references one through 9 taking note of any individual who was said to be a Hingham clockmaker, clock related craftsmen, or any clock related individual found to have ties to Hingham. The following selection criterion was used:

      Had the individual been born, lived or died in Hingham?

      Had the individual worked their trade in Hingham?

      Had the individual been apprenticed in Hingham?

      Had the individual been married in Hingham (or had married someone from Hingham)?

      Had the individual assisted in the making of a clock in Hingham?

I then summarized the information for each craftsman from the references along with any additional information obtained from other resources.

Where specific information was original to a particular reference (not necessarily common knowledge), I cited the reference used to give credit to the author.

Synopsis of Clock Making in America:

To fully appreciate what was happening in Hingham in regards to early clock making, you must first understand what was happening in the clock industry as a whole. The following is a brief historical synopsis:

The first clocks in America were public clocks or clocks designed to be placed in a tower or on a building edifice. The earliest tower clocks were brought over from England. Reference 4 states that Boston had a tower clock as early as 1668. Early on there were few clockmakers to care for these clocks so the upkeep and maintenance normally fell on the shoulders of the town’s blacksmith.

As time went on, more clocks began to appear in the colonies as wealthy aristocrats and government officials arrived from England and abroad. These clocks were the smaller more portable variety of shelf and table clocks. It is believed that the first tall clock or "grandfather clock" didn’t arrive in this country until the latter part of the 17th century (ref.4)

By the early to mid 1700s there were enough clocks in America to lure clockmakers and repairers from England and elsewhere to come to America. Additionally, many colonists, who could afford such training, went to England to train as clockmakers. Most of these very early clockmakers found their way to the larger cities such as Boston and Philadelphia and, over time, others migrated to the more urban towns and cities.

By the mid to latter 18th century, clock making, had spread to many of the more rural communities as more and more young colonialists learned the trade working as clockmaker apprentices.

Though various other types of clocks were made, it was the grandfather clock which dominated the industry through most of the 18th century. Clock case styles varied depending on the region and styles in vogue at the time, but the grandfather clock movement underwent little change between 1700 and 1850. It was primarily based on the English grandfather clock movement.

The timeframe just prior to the Revolution and during the war was very hard on many colonial clockmakers, especially the more urban clockmakers who had relied so heavily on using imported clock parts from Britain (note 1). Importations of British goods were hampered by embargos just prior to the war and non-existent during the war. Additionally, many clockmakers enlisted their talents in the war time efforts repairing and fabricating wartime implements. Although clock making continued during the war (note 2), it did so on a much smaller scale than that previously.

Post war clock making marked a dramatic shift in the processes and materials used to make clocks in America. Wood, significantly cheaper than brass and more readily available, was now widely used to make the clock movements, something Dutch and German clockmakers had been doing for quite some time. Brass, when it was used, was used sparingly.

The grandfather clock was still the clock of choice among the elite in the latter 1700s, but by 1790 clockmaker Simon Willard of Grafton Massachusetts had introduced smaller wall and shelf clocks which he sold at one fifth the price of a grandfather clock (ref. 9). These clocks being "relatively" inexpensive were now available to a broader range of the general population. No longer were clocks only within the reach of the upper class.

In 1802 Simon obtained a patent for a style of wall clock that was to become the rage for more than a century, the Patent Timepiece, also known as a banjo clock. This clock became the most popular and longest running design of any clock ever made. The design was copied (legally and illegally) by more clockmakers than any other.

Meanwhile, in 1803, industrious Connecticut based clockmaker Eli Terry was experimenting with manufacturing methods to make wooden clock movements faster and cheaper using ingenious water powered equipment. His manufacturing technique allowed him to manufacture clock movements in a more standard manner with the parts being interchangeable. Terry was also one of the first to engage his own cabinetmakers to work in his shop to build the clock cases for the movements he manufactured. Seth Thomas, noted clockmaker and business entrepreneur, began his career working for Terry as a cabinetmaker.

Terry’s success prompted a host of other enterprising craftsmen to commence in the "manufacture" of clocks in nearby localities. In the first few decades of the 19th century, literally dozens of small clock manufacturing companies sprang up seemingly overnight. Many faded just as quickly, but most prospered and the end result became a market saturated with inexpensive manufactured shelf and wall clocks. The grandfather clock quickly lost popularity.

It wasn’t long before the individual clockmakers began to feel the economic pinch as the flood of manufactured clocks hit the market. Commencing around 1820, sales of manufactured clocks climbed steadily while sales and orders for individually hand crafted clocks diminished rapidly. With a dwindling market many clockmakers quit the profession and took up new vocations. By 1850 only a handful of clockmakers were still in the business of making the old style of handcrafted clocks, in particular were Joshua and Ezra Wilder of Hingham.

By the latter half of the 19th century, several large Connecticut based clock companies had emerged as world leaders in clock manufacture. Clock companies like Seth Thomas, New Haven, Gilbert, Waterbury, Ingraham, and Ansonia thrived well into the 20th century.

Silversmiths, Goldsmiths and Jewelers:

Clock related allied craftsmen in the form of watch and clock repairers i.e., silversmiths, goldsmiths and jewelers were well established in Hingham 30 years or more before the first clockmaker (as a profession). It is important to note that it was common practice for these early tradesmen to advertise themselves as clockmakers and watchmakers although the vast majority of them were no more than proficient watch and clock repairmen. The fact that they advertised themselves in this manner is why so many were incorrectly listed as clockmakers in several of the earliest references.

In like manner, many clockmakers also advertised themselves as "watch makers", but the fact is, there were very few American watchmakers who actually produced watches made in America before 1830 (note 3).

Lacking much of the specialized tools and training required, I believe that many of the more rural clockmakers, advertising themselves as watchmakers, were only capable of performing minor watch repairs such as the cleaning and oiling of a watch or replacing hands or a broken glass bezel. In this case, the clockmaker would have often called upon the services of a local silversmith, goldsmith or jeweler, who was trained in watch repair, to repair their more challenging watch problems (note 4). I speculate that this practice would not have deterred the clockmaker from placing his own "watch paper" (business advertisement) inside the cover of the watch before returning the repaired watch to its owner.

By the nature of their craft, silversmiths, goldsmiths and jewelers often held secondary positions of trust and honor within their community. Since they were adept at handling and safeguarding precious metals and valuable commodities, it was not uncommon to see them also working as bankers and financiers.

The following tradesmen were practicing clock and watch repairers in Hingham:

Loring Bailey (1740-1814), was the son of Thomas and Anne (Loring) Bailey of Hull. Loring Bailey apprenticed as a silversmith and buckle maker under his cousin, Benjamin Loring, in Boston. Loring Bailey then moved to Hingham in 1780 and commenced in the silversmith business at Broad Bridge (ref. 14). Not much more is known about him other than many references erroneously state that he was nicknamed "Thankful Loring" by Hingham residents (note 5).

Oddly, nowhere in my research did I find Loring Bailey listed as a clock related craftsman, but he was master to three young Hingham men who apprenticed as silversmiths, Caleb Gill (1774-1855), Samuel Norton (1778-1837) and Leavitt Gill (1789-1854) (notes 6 and 7). These men went on to establish businesses in Hingham and each advertised themselves as watchmakers and clockmakers in addition to that of being a silversmith. This leads me to believe that Benjamin Loring and subsequently his apprentice, Loring Bailey, had taught clock and watch repairing when training their respective apprentices. This falls in line with the type of training one would have received under an English silversmith which may have been the case for Benjamin Loring.

Joseph Blake Thaxter (1791-1863) was the son of Daniel and Lucy (Blake) Thaxter of Hingham. Joseph was married in 1815 to Sally Gill, sister of the silversmith Leavitt Gill. According to reference 14, Joseph was a silversmith working on the northwesterly side of South Street between Broad Bridge and Magoon’s Bridge in Hingham.

Although the following silversmiths, goldsmiths or jewelers were not listed in any of the clockmaker reference books, nor did they meet my criteria for Hingham clock makers and allied craftsmen, I am including them here as "possible" Hingham watch and clock repairmen due to the nature of their craft and its often close association with watch and clock repair.

Samuel Haugh (1675-1750), was a native of Boston. He was trained as a goldsmith. Samuel was married to Margaret Cowell also of Boston. Sometime after 1713 he moved his family to Hingham. It appears that Samuel was a wealthy man as he held additional properties in Boston that he gave to his children before his death. According to the Suffolk Registry of Deeds of 1727 to 1729, a "John Doane (note 8) of Eastham bought lands and houses on School St. from the heirs of Samuel Haugh, goldsmith". Samuel Haugh died in Hingham in 1750 (ref. web genealogy sites).

Caleb Beal (1746-1801) was born in Hingham, the son of Joshua Beal and Elizabeth (Stodder) Beal. He was also apprenticed as a silversmith under Benjamin Loring in Boston. He married in Boston in 1772. He then moved back to Hingham and worked there from 1775 to 1781. After 1781 he Returned to Boston and worked there until his death. He had no children.

Benjamin Hammond (1783-1859), was born in Hingham the son of Joseph Hammond and Susanna (Loring) Hammond. Benjamin went to Boston in 1799 to learn the trade of silversmith as an apprentice of David Tyler. Family genealogical records indicate that at some point later he became "demented". He was not married and died in Hingham, Aug. 7, 1859.

Elijah Lincoln (1794-1861) was born in Hingham the son of Maj. Jedediah and Susanna (Beal) Lincoln (note 9). Elijah apprenticed as a silversmith in Boston. In 1818 he established his business in Hingham on South Street until about 1833 (ref.14). Elijah died in Hingham unmarried.

The first Documented Hingham Made Clock:

The first clock known to have been made in Hingham was made by Doctor Josiah Leavitt (1744-1804), a reputable Hingham physician who, according to Hingham historian George Lincoln, was said to have built a public clock that was hung in an attic window of the Old Meeting House sometime around 1772 or 1773 (ref. 14). I speculate that this was the first and only clock he ever built. There is no information as to where he obtained his clock making expertise or knowledge but, according to Lincoln, he possessed extraordinary mechanical talents and abilities. It is worth noting that his sister, Hannah Leavitt, was married to Joseph Lovis, listed as a clockmaker, watchmaker, repairer, and buckle maker working in Hingham (ref. 14). I speculate that Josiah Leavitt’s brother-in-law may have helped him build the clock in some capacity. In 1773 Josiah built and resided in a house on Main Street, at the corner of Elm Street. Around 1777 he sold his home and moved to Boston to become a very prominent maker and repairer of organs.

The Bailey’s (Bayley’s) of Hanover:

To aptly address the early Hingham clockmakers (as a profession), we must first discuss the Bailey clock making family of Hanover and their influence on the Hingham clockmakers.

As an example of the Bailey influence; reference 4 states that the Bailey’s "appear to be" the earliest producers of the dwarf tall clock, a miniature version of a grandfather clock that could be placed on the floor or on a shelf. This is the type of clock that Joshua Wilder later produced in good numbers and has long since become so well known for making. Many have incorrectly attributed this design to Wilder.

John Bailey I (1730-1810) was a Quaker. He was the son of John and Elizabeth (Cowen) Bailey of Hanover. John married Ruth (Randall) Bailey on 18 October 1750. According to reference 4, he began making clocks in Hanover about that same time (1750). There is no data as to where John Bailey learned clock making but, according to reference 4, his large wooden grandfather clock movements resemble the more "crude" styles of the Cheney’s of East Hartford, Connecticut. References state that John Bailey was a town selectman in Hanover from 1768 to 1771 and that he served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War (note 10). John and Ruth had 11 children and John trained three of his sons in clock making.

Lebbeus Bailey (1763-1827), the youngest clock making son of John Bailey I, left Hanover to work in North Yarmouth, Maine in 1791. The next oldest son, Calvin Bailey (1761-1835), worked in Hanover until 1828 at which time he moved to Bath Maine. John Bailey II (1751- 1823), was the oldest of the sons. John worked in Hingham briefly, but returned to Hanover where he remained most of his life (note 11). Besides being an excellent clockmaker, John Bailey II was a devout Quaker preacher who often made sojourns to other towns to preach the Quaker belief "as the spirit moved him". (Ref. 8 and web genealogy pages)

Of the three sons, John II was probably the most influential in regards to Hingham’s early clock making history. A partial list of his apprentices includes Joshua Wilder of Hingham (not confirmed, but highly likely), Ezra Kelley of Dennis, and David Studley of Hanover. He also trained two of his sons (John III and Joseph) in the clock making profession.

John Bailey III (1787-1883) was said to have worked briefly in Hingham, but moved to Portland Maine sometime before 1809. A short time later he moved into a vacant storefront that was previously occupied by J. Lovis and Brothers silversmiths (sons of the clockmaker mentioned earlier) (ref. 8). In 1824 John III moved to New Bedford where he conducted business making clocks as well as mathematical and scientific equipment. According to reference 4, he had a lucrative business calibrating chronometers for the local ship merchants, but later lost his business when his stanch abolitionist views became widely known (note 12).

John III’s younger brother, Joseph Bailey (1785-?), may very well have been one of the first established clockmakers working in Hingham, although… he may not have been considered the ideal citizen! According to reference 8, 1806 Plymouth County court documents show that a Thomas Burr of Hingham had sued Joseph Bailey for lack of payment for board from 1804-1806. Oddly enough, clock maker David Studley (1783-1873) (note 13) of Hanover, who also worked briefly in Hingham, sued Joseph over unpaid debts at the same time Ref. 8). Sometime after 1808, Joseph Bailey moved on to conduct business in New Bedford and Lynn. He never married and there is little information as to what became of him after leaving Hingham.

The Early Hingham Clockmakers:

Capt. Joseph Lovis (1741-1810) as mentioned previously, is listed as clockmaker, watchmaker, repairer and buckle maker working in Hingham circa 1775-1804. The description given is one more like that of an early jeweler and clock/watch repairmen than one of a clockmaker, but several references, including a Dartmouth College Library Catalog  listing, describes him as being a Hingham clockmaker. No known clock examples have been found attributed to Joseph Lovis.

I could not determine where Joseph received his training nor did I find family genealogical history as to how or when the Lovis family came to Hingham, but, in the 1790 Hingham Census, there are two Lovis(s) families listed. The census lists a Joseph Lovis and a Thomas Lovis. Possibly this "Thomas Lovis" was the family of Thomas and Sarah Lovis of Marblehead which was said to have moved to Hingham sometime around 1770 (web genealogy sources). If correct then Joseph is likely a close relative.

Joseph Lovis married Hannah Leavitt of Hingham on 8 Dec 1768. She was the daughter of Hezekiah and Grace (Hatch) Leavitt and, as mentioned earlier, she was the sister of Josiah Leavitt.

Joseph and Hannah had 3 sons; Joseph, Josiah, and George. The sons learned the trade from their father and moved to Portland to establish a jewelry and watch making business. An old advertisement states "J. Lovis & Brothers, at the sign of the golden watch, in Fishstreet, Portland, inform their customers and the public that they continue to carry on the business of watch making & jewelry, in all their various branches. ..." (Ref. web sources)

Joshua Wilder (1786-1860) of South Hingham commenced his clock making enterprise around 1807. Joshua would go on to become the most prolific and influential Hingham clockmaker. He is renowned for his exceptional grandfather clocks and diminutive dwarf clocks. He also made other assorted shelf clocks and patent timepieces (ref. 8).

It is generally believed that Joshua was apprenticed to John Bailey II of Hanover (note 14).

Joshua was the 11th child out of 21 born to Hingham parents Edward Wilder and Mary (Hersey) Wilder on December 12th 1786. In 1812, Joshua married Judith Shearman (Sherman). She was a Quaker from Rochester, Ma. Judith was related (on her mother’s side) to the Quaker clockmaker cousins Allen Kelley of Yarmouth and Ezra Kelley of Dennis. Allen Kelley (1791-1876) learned clock making as an apprentice of Joshua Wilder (ref. 8). Ezra Kelley (1798-1895) apprenticed under his cousin Allen as well as under John Bailey II of Hanover (ref. 8) (note 15).

Judith’s nephew, Martial (Marshall) Shearman (1803-1831) of Rochester, Ma, had probably worked for Joshua Wilder briefly as two of Wilder’s clocks have been found to have had his (Martial Shearman’s) name etched on the movements (ref. 8). Martial married Hannah Jacob, daughter of John and Tamar (Cushing) Jacob of Hingham. They then moved on to conduct business in Andover (note 16).

Clockmaker Phillip R. Bennett of Freetown, MA (I speculate that he is another Quaker) apprenticed under Joshua from 1814 to 1821. At the completion of his training, Phillip married Catherine Jacob of Hingham, daughter of Daniel and Mary (Jones) Jacob. Phillip established a clock making business in Freetown and later in Troy, MA (ref. 8).

During his career, Joshua trained many clockmakers who went on to become quite successful in their own right. As stated, his list of apprentices includes mostly members of the Quaker belief who came from large Quaker societies in Rochester, Freetown, New Bedford, and Barnstable Ma. Although not validated, I speculate that Joshua also trained several of his South Hingham "non-Quaker" neighbors and friends including Reuben Tower and Peter Cushing (note 17).

Joshua and Judith had 7 children and the 4rth child, Ezra, apprenticed under his father and went into business with him sometime around 1840.

Judith died around 1850. On Jan. 11, 1854, Joshua married secondly Angelina Josselyn of Pembroke. Joshua died in Scituate on 3 Oct. 1860, at the age of 74 (ref. 8)

Pyam Cushing. Although this individual was not listed in any reference, I found evidence on a website that leads me to include him as a strong "possible" in our list of Hingham clockmakers. The website was promoting the sale of an article entitled "The Working Lives of the Rural Middle Class in Provincial Massachusetts" by Eric Nellis. It showed a one line quote from the article basically stating that a Pyam Cushing of Hingham was, amongst several other occupations, a clockmaker.

The website had little to go on and there were many "Pyam Cushings" listed in the Cushing genealogies, but I speculate that the individual described is Pyam Cushing (1789-1865), born to Robert Cushing and Judith (Loring) Cushing of South Hingham. This Pyam would have been of the correct age to have been trained by, or had worked for, either Joshua Wilder or one of the Baileys. In 1813, Pyam married Sarah Jacob; sister of Catherine Jacob who, in 1822, married Phillip R. Bennett, the apprentice of Joshua Wilder.

Caleb Stowell (1792-1867) was listed as a clockmaker and watchmaker in reference 8. He was born in Hingham, the son of Israel and Lydia (Mansfield) Stowell. Caleb married Emeline Hubbard of Boston. She was the sister to the well known ornamental clock painter Charles Hubbard and his clock making brother, Daniel Hubbard. Caleb lived and worked in Boston. He eventually gave up clock making to become a successful building contractor (ref. 8). He died in Boston. Caleb’s sister, Susanna, married Leavitt Gill the silversmith as his second wife.

Reuben Tower (1795-1881), son of John and Lydia (Beal) Tower, was a close South Hingham neighbor of the clock making Wilders and I speculate that he trained under Joshua Wilder as Tower’s clocks are said to closely resemble those made by Joshua Wilder.

In 1819 Reuben married Rebecca Hathaway of Plymouth, MA. He and his wife moved to Kingston and lived there from 1822 to 1825. They then moved to Hanover and lived there from 1826 to 1830. In 1831 they moved back to South Hingham (ref. 8). Although Reuben was now working as a clockmaker in Hingham, he continued to make "rounds" to the other South Shore communities every couple of months to perform clock and watch repairs. Reuben and Rebecca had fourteen children and Reuben’s daughter, Rebecca, married Ezra Wilder. Reuben Tower’s clocks may be found to have either Kingston, Hanover or Hingham on the dials as the location of origin. He died in Hingham on Oct 27, 1881.

Peter Hawkes Cushing (1799-1889), son of John and Christiana (Thaxter) Cushing, is known as being a clockmaker working his trade in Weymouth and Braintree but, he was born and raised in South Hingham. His family was another close neighbor of the Wilders and I speculate that he was trained by Joshua Wilder. Peter completed his training and moved to Weymouth in 1820. An old advertisement lists his business location as being "near the Weymouth Landing" (ref. 8). In 1822 he married Deborah Jacob of Hingham. She was the daughter of Jotham and Grace (Tower) Jacob (note 18). Peter went on to become a very prominent citizen of Weymouth serving as chairman of the Weymouth School Committee and bank treasurer of Weymouth and Braintree Institute for Savings (ref 8). Peter Cushing died in Weymouth February 14, 1889.

Elijah Whiton (1799-1871), son of Elijah and Charity (Loring) Whiton, was a somewhat more obscure Hingham clockmaker. He was born in Hingham on March 6, 1799. It is not known where he served as an apprentice, but I speculate that he may have apprenticed under Joshua Wilder, or more likely, one of the Baileys since he also made mathematical and scientific instruments (as did John Bailey III). In 1820 Elijah left Hingham and moved to Groton, Ma. In 1822 he married Lydia Wilder of Hingham. She was the daughter of Crocker and Deborah (Jacob) Wilder.

Reference 8 lists Elijah as a clockmaker, watchmaker, silversmith, and mathematical instrument maker working in Groton from 1820 to 1839. In 1839 he sold his business and returned home to Hingham to reside at the corner of Main and Friend Street (across the street from Ezra Wilder). He no-longer made clocks and mathematical instruments, but instead became a maker of wooden buckets and other wooden ware. I speculate that the Wilder family of coopers, of which he married into, may have influenced his decision. His brother-in-law, Crocker Wilder, owned the C. Wilder and Sons bucket factory on Cushing pond. Elijah established his bucket making enterprise at the entrance to Hersey Street near Hobart. Hersey Street, at that time, had become home to many coopers making buckets and other wooden ware (ref. 14). In 1851, Elijah wrote an article for the Scientific American publication describing a revolutionary new way to make wooden buckets using a solid block of wood and a spiral saw (sort of like a huge auger bit) vice assembling multiple slats of wood. His factory burned down October 23, 1855. Elijah Whiton died in Hingham Feb 10, 1871.

The ominous title of "last of the early Hingham clockmakers" most certainly goes to Ezra Wilder (1819-1886). He was in partnership with his father and he continued actively making clocks as late as 1886, the year he died. Ezra was a close neighbor of Reuben Tower and married his daughter, Rebecca Tower, in 1841. Ezra also owned and operated a dry goods store next to his home on the corner of Friend and Main Street. This store is still standing today as "The Cracker Barrel". On October 21, 1886, Ezra died at the home of his son in East Weymouth (ref. 8).

Early Hingham Clock Related Cabinetmakers:

The following cabinetmakers were listed in one or more of the clock making references:

Abiel White (1766-1844) was a cabinetmaker working in Weymouth. He was an apprentice of cabinetmaker Stephen Badlam of Dorchester (note 18). After his apprenticeship with Badlam, which included two years as a journeyman, Abel returned home to Weymouth and set up shop on Plymouth Road (Ref. 21). White made clock cases for Joshua Wilder and Rueben Tower of Hingham and John (probably John II) and Calvin Bailey of Hanover. He is recorded in Calvin Bailey’s account ledger as supplying several finished clock cases and, in return, he received several clock movements (ref. 11). I speculate that Abiel made clock cases for these movements and sold them as complete clocks.

Abner Hersey (1773-1849) was a cabinetmaker working in Hingham. He was the son of Thomas and Abigail (Cushing) Hersey of Hingham. According to reference 8, Abner’s shop was on South, near Main St. He made clock cases for Calvin and Joseph Bailey. Abner Hersey is mentioned in Calvin Bailey’s Account ledger as having supplied clock cases from 1802 to 1804 (ref. 8).

Theodore Cushing (1776-1855) was a cabinetmaker working in Hingham. He was born in Hingham, the son of Elisha and Deborah Cushing. He made clock cases for John II, Calvin and Joseph Bailey (note 11). Like the cabinetmaker Abiel White, reference 11 indicates that Theodore also traded many finished clock cases to Calvin Bailey and received clock movements in return. I speculate that he also cased these movements and sold them as complete clocks.

James W. Vose (1780-1854?) was born in Milton. He married Lydia A. Whiton of Hingham. She was the daughter of Job and Luey (Farren) Whiton. James was in business in Hingham with his brother in law, Walton V. Mead, as Vose and Mead cabinetmakers. According to reference 14, their business was located on the corner of North Street and Central Row. Later he was in business on his own at the corner of Main and South Streets. His business failed and his property sold off at auction. Some of the items listed to be sold included clocks and clock cases (ref. 8). Mr. Vose then left Hingham for Boston where he trained in the art of making pianos. Years later, he opened a piano manufacturing business with his three sons as Vose and Sons. Their pianos are considered some of the best in the world.

Samuel Beal (1783-1870) was born in Hingham to James and Susanna (Sprague) Beal. He is listed as a cabinetmaker and furniture merchant (ref. 8). He opened a furniture warehouse in Boston and carried a line of clocks for sale. He died in Boston.

Other Early Hingham Clock Related Craftsmen:

James Todd (1795-1884) was a gilder and maker of looking glasses (mirrors). He was born in Hingham to Capt. James and Deborah (Thaxter) Todd. James Todd married Lucy Thaxter of Hingham. James apprenticed under Paul Mondelly and worked as a guilder in Boston making, amongst other things, mirrors and glass panels for clocks (ref. 8). He then moved to Portland where, according to web genealogy records, he held many positions of honor and trust as representative, alderman, and city clerk. He also became president of the Mechanic Association, a member of the Masonic body, and bank director (Ref. web genealogy).

Warren Lincoln (1801-1885). According to reference 8, Warren Lincoln was a gilder and maker of looking glasses (mirrors). He was born in Hingham to Charles and Mary (Barry) Lincoln. He was in partnership with Nathaniel Ring as Ring and Lincoln working in Boston (ref. 8). He died in Boston.

The End of an Era

The number of new listings for Hingham clockmakers or allied craftsmen fell dramatically after 1830. This would coincide with the steady influx of inexpensive manufactured clocks that had saturated the market by this time

I speculate that by around 1840 (about the year Ezra joined his father in partnership) Joshua’s highly successful clock making enterprise had run its course. Neither he nor Ezra ever stopped making clocks but, I believe, much less frequently and only as customers requested them.

Elijah Whiton had probably seen "the writing on the wall" when, in 1839, he closed his clock and mathematical instrument making shop in Groton in order to return to Hingham to work as a cooper. About that same time, clockmaker Ezra Kelley of New Bedford quit making clocks and became a dry goods merchant.

Sadly, by the 1850’s, most of America’s clock making artisans had moved on to work as simple repairmen of the cheap clocks that had put them out of business. Many others used their clock making skills working in similar vocations as silversmiths, goldsmiths or retail jewelers.

A New Era… The Clock Making Industrialists

The second half of the 19th century brought with it extensive modernization in manufacturing processes. Unfortunately most, if not all, of this took place outside Hingham and, like the individual clockmaker, other Hingham industries which had flourished during the first half of the century, succumbed under the large scale industrial factories that did it faster and cheaper. Many of Hingham’s old established manufacturing concerns closed their doors forever (ref. 10).

With the steady reduction in the number of manufacturing jobs that Hingham could support, many of the young men began to look elsewhere for new opportunities. So it was with Edward Howard who would leave Hingham to go on to become world renown in the manufacture of precision clocks and watches under the trademark of E. Howard & Co. Other Hingham craftsmen and entrepreneurs involved in this business include Albert Howard, Edward’s cousin and Luther Stephenson, a Hingham Center scale maker.

There are many books and articles detailing the clock making and manufacturing efforts of Edward Howard and his association with Luther Stephenson. I will not repeat the efforts of others here. To complete this story of clock making history and those that were a part of it, I direct the reader to a two part article written by Daniel L. Haff of Hingham. The article, Hingham’s Own Edward Howard: Clock and Watchmaker to the World (part 1 and part 2) was published in the Hingham Historical Society publication June-July 1992.



As can be seen, Hingham is rich in clock making heritage, both that of the early individual craftsmen and in the industrial age. Unfortunately, we may never really know all the Hingham craftsmen that were a part of our clock making legacy, but I see my research as a start with the hopes that others will build on the information provided and correct any errors found. It is a work in progress and one worth placing much effort to accomplish. Clock making is a substantial part of the history that is Hingham.



      Though many clock movements were made in this country, there is strong evidence to suggest that many city and urban clockmakers had used the readily available clock parts or complete clock movements imported from England. Reference 12 describes the accounts of several clockmaker’s ledgers where large amounts of parts and complete movements were procured. It is highly likely that many of the clocks thought to be "truly" American, are concealing British made movements behind the dial. Many are without markings so it would be difficult to prove.

      In contrast, as Calvin Bailey’s ledger shows, the rural clockmakers on the South Shore were more likely to have manufactured most if not all the parts of their clocks. Bailey’s ledger shows a lot of trading and exchanging of services to obtain raw brass and other metals necessary to build a clock. This would not have been necessary had he been using the imported parts from England. With this in view, I am fairly confident that many of the South Shore clockmakers were proficient "whitesmiths" capable of casting brass clock parts from old recycled brass.

      During the Revolution, clockmaker Simon Willard continued to work to refine his prototypes of smaller clocks. His efforts proved fruitful and his new and improved clocks were introduced to the market a few years after the war ended (Ref. 9).

      Thomas Harland (1735-1807 of Norwich, Connecticut and Luther Goddard (1762-1820) of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts were two of the earliest American watchmakers. The Pitkin brothers, Henry (1811-1846) and James (1812-1870), of East Hartford Connecticut, were the first to manufacture watches in America using special purpose machines built for that purpose ca. 1830s (ref. 4).

      Reference 13 shows that Joshua Wilder had left a customer’s watch with Samuel Norton for repairs. Samuel’s untimely death required that his family members return the watch to Joshua Wilder as they settled the estate in 1837. 14 other watches were also returned to other Hingham residents.

      Calvin Bailey’s ledger (ref. 11) shows that, although he had cleaned customers’ watches along with performing a few other nondescript "repairs", there were several entries where he passed his customer’s watches on to his brother John Bailey (II) or to David Studley or John Dearing for their subsequent repairs.

      These instances lead me to believe that many rural clockmakers did not learn the art of watch repair during their apprenticeships. They may have been capable of performing minor repairs and dismantling a watch to clean them, but the more difficult repairs such as fabricating a balance staff or replacing a hair spring required a more skilled and properly trained craftsman.

      The conclusion that Loring Bailey had the nickname "Thankful Loring" is incorrect and stems from a mistake in the 1893 History of Hingham genealogy pages.

      "Thankful" was one of several popular names used as a woman’s first name. In the 1893 History of Hingham, there is a sub-note under the Bailey family genealogy (v. 2 pg. 17) that reads (quote) "Gad, m. Dec. 10, 1807, Thankful Loring. Loring, a silversmith and buckle-maker, d. unm. Jan. 1814.   Loring Bailey's shop was near "Broad Bridge." (End-quote) The first part of the quote speaks of Thankful Loring, the daughter of Job Loring and Judith Whiton. She was born 9 Jun 1777 in Hingham and married Gad Bailey of Hanover on 10 Dec 1807. The next two sentences regarding the silversmith Loring Bailey have absolutely no connection to the first part about the woman "Thankful Loring". I believe George Lincoln or someone else accidentally attributed her name (Thankful Loring) to that of a nickname once used for Loring Bailey in earlier times.

      Samuel Norton was the son of Samuel Norton (Sr) and Jane Andrews, a very prominent Hingham family. Samuel Norton established his business" on the rising ground, about where the middle of the road is now (1898) in front of Derby Academy" (Ref. 14)

      Samuel performed watch repairs for Joshua Wilder (ref.13).

      Caleb Gill was born to Nathaniel (I) and Sarah (Beal) Gill in 1774. Caleb married Caty Beal of Hingham in 1799. She was the daughter of Elijah and Caty (Lewis) Beal.

      Leavitt Gill was born in 1789 to Nathaniel (II) and Lydia (Humphrey) Gill. Leavitt married his first wife, Hannah Wilder in 1810. Hannah was the daughter of Isaiah and Susan (Leavitt) Wilder. Hannah died in 1854. Leavitt secondly marries Susannah Stowell daughter of Israel and Lydia (Mansfield) Stowell. Susannah was the sister of Caleb Stowell, the Hingham born clockmaker working in Boston.

      Leavitt’s father (Nathanial II) was the brother of Caleb Gill which makes him (Caleb) the uncle of Leavitt Gill. The Gills established their business on South Street on the west part of town (ref. 14)

      John Doane’s title was that of "Esquire", a man of extreme wealth and prestige. He owned quite a bit of commercial and private property in Boston, Hull and Scituate. A land deed document listed his occupation as that of "distiller". In 1686 John first married Mehitable Scudder of Eastham, Ma. They had three children together, John (II), Joshua, and Solomon. Mehitable died sometime before 1696. In 1696 John married Hannah Hobart of Hingham, daughter of Captain Joshua Hobart and Ellen Ibrook. Several references state that John and Hannah had one child (Joshua) and, as best as I can tell, he is the only child they had in their 35 years of marriage. John and Hannah primarily lived in Eastham where they were active church leaders. Hannah died in Wellfleet in 1731. In 1732 John, now 67 years of age, married as his third wife, Jane Collier of Hull who was 22 years of age. She was previously married to Paul Baxter, also of Hull, but he died soon after they were married. Jane had one child from this previous marriage (Paul Baxter Jr.). John Doane and Jane Collier had five children together and the last child was born when John was nearly eighty years old! John Doane Esq. died in Boston in 1755 and shortly thereafter (that same year) his widow, Jane Collier, married Captain Atherton Haugh, the son Samuel Haugh, goldsmith of Hingham.

      A genealogical website reports "At the time of the Great Boston Fire of March 20, 1760, the homes of Capt. Atherton Haugh, John Doane [III], and "Paul Baxter's shop," all in Mackrel Lane - near the current Quincy Market, were lost".

      To put this in perspective: at the time of the great fire, Jane Collier was living with her third husband (Capt. Atherton Haugh) on the huge estate left to her by her second husband (John Doane Esq.). Also on the estate was the workshop of her son from her first marriage (Paul Baxter II) as well as the home of her second husband’s grandson from his first marriage (Paul Doane III).

      The website goes on to say that John Doane (III) (1719-1767) was described as a goldsmith and a clockmaker living in Boston, Scituate, and Cohasset. Reference 6 states that there is a brass grandfather clock movement in existence attributed to John Doane of Scituate. John died sometime around 1767 at the Island of Barbados.

      Susanna Beal was the sister of Caty Beal who was married to Caleb Gill the silversmith.

      Reference 16 provides a brief summary of John Bailey’s Revolutionary War military service. It basically says that John Bailey I served as a colonel in the revolution commencing around 1775. Although his service was honorable and distinguished, John requested a discharge "due to ill health and domestic affairs". He was subsequently discharged in 1780. It goes on to say that he died a poor man. Oddly, no-where did it mention anything of his clock making pursuits. Another Bailey family genealogical website states that (speaking of John Bailey I) "toward the end of his life, he kept a Tavern, on Curtis Street, near where Abisha Soule resides." Again, this site makes no mention of clock making.

      Reference 2 states that a clock in Hingham had an inscription on the back "Made in 1801, running parts made in F. Burr’s store by John Bayley. A case made by Theodore Cushing 1808."

      Reference 14 states that there is (in 1893) a clock in Hingham Centre which has in the back of the case the following inscription "This clock was made in 1808. The running parts were made in F. Burrs & Co’s Store by Joseph Bayley. The case was made by Theodore Cushing, 1808."

      If the authors both quoted the inscriptions correctly, then we are looking at two separate clocks. The first made by the father and the second, made seven years later, by his son. Both clocks were made in F. Burr’s store in Hingham (probably Fearing Burr).

      According to reference 4, "the Whigs" owned all but two ships operating in New Bedford at that time. The Whigs, not in agreement with Bailey’s conscientious abolitionist views, hired another man in town to care for their clock needs. Subsequently, Bailey lost his business.

      David Studley of Hanover was related to the Fearings of Hingham (his mother was Rachael "Fearing" Studley)

      I speculate that Joshua had become a devout Quaker (converted) while apprenticing under John Bailey II. My rationale stems from the nickname "Quaker Wilder" given him later by Hingham residents (ref.14). It leads me to believe that his Quaker belief was an oddity among the great many Wilder families living in South Hingham at that time. If I am correct, who better to have converted him than his Quaker preacher - teacher and clock making mentor of his youth?

      There are several Wilder clocks bearing Hanover on the dial instead of Hingham. It is likely that Joshua had continued to work in Hanover (possibly as a journeyman) after his apprenticeship before returning to Hingham to set up shop.

      According to reference 8, at the completion of his training, Ezra Kelley married Nancy Simmon(d)s of Hingham. She was the daughter of a Methodist and this "taboo" marriage led to his being expelled from the Quaker society.

      Martial Sherman of Andover died in 1831 at the age of 28. Martial and Hannah’s daughter, Mary Jacob Sherman, married David Cushing Jr. of Hingham in 1850. Hannah Jacob remarried to Urban Bates of Weymouth in 1856.

      I am on the belief that Joshua had a fairly large business concern between the years of 1810 through 1825. I speculate that he may have had as many as four or five workers in his shop at any given time. In order to accomplish this, I believe that Joshua employed local boys in addition to the contracted apprentices he had working in his shop. The local help would have provided cheap labor for him and excellent training for the boys.

      Probable local employees were Reuben Tower and Peter Cushing. Other possible employees may include Pyam Cushing and Elijah Whiton.

      Reference 11 shows many entries for business transactions between Calvin Bailey and Jotham Jacob. Bailey delivered clocks to customers under Jothams name. I speculate Jotham was a merchant and sold clocks for Bailey and perhaps others.

      According to reference 10, Jotham had an illegitimate son (William Tower). His mother was the sister of Jotham’s wife!

      Stephen Badlam was a distant relative of Abiel White (ref. 17). Badlam was a highly regarded cabinetmaker making grandfather clock cases as well as fine furniture. According to reference 8, Badlam was also related to John Doggett who himself was an esteemed guilder, carver, cabinetmaker, and supplier of ornamental glass and other clock hardware. Doggett was closely associated with many of the well known and respected Boston and Roxbury clockmakers including the Willards. It is possible that the ornamental glass and other items produced by John Doggett may have been used on some of the clocks produced by the Hingham and Hanover clock makers.


Miscellaneous notes:

      Hiram Thomas (1843-1909) left Hingham after attending Hingham public schools and Derby Academy. He left Hingham to apprentice clock making in Roxbury under a John Polsey, a former employee of E. Howard & Co. In 1861 Hiram became a watchmaker working for Waltham Watch Co. Later he worked for the Newark, N.J. Watch Co and in 1867 he commenced working at the Elgin Watch Company as superintendent of the plate room until his death in 1909.

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